Cosmography – The Wonders of Creation and the Oddities of Existence

The Wonders of Creation and the Oddities of Existence was compiled in 1270 by Zakariya Qazwini, a judge living in Wasit in Iraq. ps242703_lIt remained popular reading for centuries. It is an illustrated compendium, which describes the many marvels of the universe. The book covers the fields of geography, astronomy, astrology and natural history, in a mixture of science and superstition. The sections on natural history were subject to fantasy, as some of its contents were based on the tall tales of travellers returning from distant regions. Qazwini divided the known universe into three spheres: the Heavens (which included stars, planets and angels), Water (consisting of the seas, fish, the distant islands and their strange inhabitants) and the Earth (composed of animal, vegetable and mineral).

Abu Yahya Zakariya’ ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini (أبو يحيئ زكريا بن محمد القزويني) (born 1203 – died 1283), was a Persian physician, astronomer, geographer and proto-science fiction writer. He served as legal expert and judge in several localities in Persia and at Baghdad. He travelled around in Mesopotamia and Syria, and finally entered the circle patronized by the governor of Baghdad, ‘Ata-Malik Juwayni (d. 1283 CE). It was to the latter that al-Qazwini dedicated his famous Arabic-language cosmography titled ‘Aja’ib al-makhluqat wa-ghara’ib al-mawjudat عجائب المخلوقات و غرائب الموجودات (“Marvels of Creatures and Strange Things Existing”). This treatise, frequently illustrated, was immensely popular and is preserved today in many copies. It was translated into Persian and Turkish.

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